Congratulations, Cleveland and Chicago! As this is written, game two of the 2016 World Series has just concluded and the Cubs have just squared things up with the Indians. The playoffs so far have been pretty terrific. As happens every year, the rest of us get acquainted with players with whom we may not be familiar. Well, hello there, Roberto Perez. In game one, you bore a striking resemblance to Gene Tenace, 1972 vintage. And welcome back, Kyle Schwarber. It’s remarkable that you’re participating at all, let alone thriving in this pressurized atmosphere. And how do you do, Jose Ramirez? We had no idea you were a .300 hitter this year. It’s all part of the fun of October baseball, welcoming unfamiliar faces to the table. As Mets fans, we oughta know: last year those faces were ours.
Every postseason offers up its own rewards. For your intrepid columnist, the nine-year stretch of memorable World Series between 1985 and 1993 will be tough to match. To wit:
1985 – the Don Denkinger call in game six helps deliver a first championship to Kansas City.
1987 – The Minnesota Twins win their first championship.
1989 – The horrible Earthquake Series
1990 – The surprising Cincinnati Reds sweep the heavily-favored Oakland A’s
1991 – The worst-to-first Series, the Twins over the Atlanta Braves in seven thrillers.
1992 – The first Canadian Crown as the Blue Jays beat the Braves.
This year, we’re treated to two teams who haven’t been to October Valhalla in a fairly long while. The Indians were last here in 1997, but haven’t sprayed the champagne since 1948. As we all know by now, the Cubs haven’t played the ultimate contest since 1945, haven’t won one since 1908. Both franchises have been noted for long – I mean Sahara Desert long – stretches of futility in their respective histories. The Indians were the laughingstock team of the 1970s and ‘80s, more memorable for the infamous “Ten-Cent Beer Night” riot and spawning the still-funny Major League movie franchise than for any on-field success. And we Met fans are familiar with the travails of the Cubs, our somewhat ancient rivals, seemingly always beset by black cats and billygoats. So this Mets fan is happy to see some new garb in the stands. And all I can say is this: enjoy it. Revel in it now, because you guys know as well as anybody, you just don’t know when your next opportunity is coming. Ask the Washington Nationals, who smugly thought they’d be playing in October every year, when back in 2012, they shut down Stephen Strasburg for the playoffs to preserve his arm. He’s spent a lot more time on the DL since then and there’s still no flag flying in Washington. Ask the Royals, who seemed primed for a third consecutive trip to the big dance, only to stumble to .500 this year. And ask us, the Mets, who were supposed to be well-armed for the pennant race, but who saw a cruel wave of injuries sweep the clubhouse and arrived for an all-too-brief playoff appearance panting, with odd new faces of our own. Baseball is a funny place and what appears a dead cinch can turn the other way awfully quickly. Nothing is ever guaranteed: that’s why they play the games.
So embrace this time. Love it up to the sky and back. You never know when you’ll see it again.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.